Former Velvet Pounds The Drums For Magnet

Magnet performed in Arlington, Virginia last night.

To see former Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker playing music

at all is a golden occasion; to witness her standing up and pounding away

behind her huge drum kit--something she's done only rarely in the last quarter

century--was a glorious event indeed. That Magnet, the band she backed on

Saturday (May 10), turned in a night's worth of enjoyable, jangly rock and roll

turned out to be icing on the cake.

Although Tucker has lit out on several

tours to support her own solo albums in the past ten years, those gigs featured

her as a guitar playing frontwoman. With Magnet, whose debut album Don't Be

A Penguin (PC Music) was released last week, she returns to the original

role she established as an unadorned, unquestionably powerful rhythm maker.

Those who came out to Arlington, Virginia's Iota on Saturday received a glimpse

into a past that they likely never encountered first hand.


Magnet's show held its own by also serving a status report from the present,

confirming as anticipated, that Tucker's style is timeless. While there's no

shame in having her work inextricably linked to that of the Velvets, Tucker can

take pride knowing that her natural, singular approach is as current today as

it ever was.

As the members of Magnet arranged themselves on stage, they

highlighted the double-edged nature of the ex-Velvet's participation for leader

and songwriter Mark Goodman. Their set up clearly focused attention on Tucker.

Three men (Goodman, ex-Ween bassist Matt Cohut, and a local guitarist) formed

an arc around the female drummer, who was again set off by the sizable

semi-circle of white drums between her and the rest of the band. Against this

dynamic, Goodman had to define himself as a talent worth the audience's notice

with or without the draw of Tucker.

During the first several


During the first several songs much of the crowd

inevitably concentrated on Tucker. They examined her bellowing kit (featuring a

bass drum on a stand, one floor tom, two mounted toms, a snare, a high hat, and

two cymbals); watched as she switched from big sticks to heavy mallets, then

mixed the two; noticed that she had instructions for each song written in a

notebook on the floor (something she also carries along during her solo shows);

and simply absorbed her unpretentious style.

At the same time, the loose

band paid attention to each other, looking for cues and following signals.

Their interaction in turn prompted the crowd to eventually focus on Goodman and

to warm his songs. This first part of the set offered some of the most tuneful

songs from Don't Be A Penguin, especially "Banger" and "On We


Interestingly, it was Tucker who may have shined the least early on.

In fact, the fifty-two year old drummer appeared nervous and burdened as she

stared intently downward at her kit. It was as if she knew that the crowd had

turned out to see Goodman's band because of her role in it, and was thus more

conscious of getting her parts right. With Magnet, Tucker carries a different

responsibility than with her own band. If she blows a performance with the Moe

Tucker Band, then she alone takes the hit; if she falls down behind Magnet,

it's Goodman--now receiving the most attention he's ever seen as a

musician--whose career suffers.

Whether or not such a burden was at the

root of Tucker's state on Saturday, she and Goodman have in their short time

together have already found the key to loosening the drummer up. Five songs

into their set, the band members shuffled about, Tucker donned Goodman's

guitar, and the group rolled into her signature solo tune, "Bo Diddley."

Immediately she looked more confident. Under her short hair, her weathered

face showed a slight beam, and later she broke out with a full smile. As she

banged out the familiar rhythm on guitar, Tucker looked back to Cohut,

encouraging him on the drums. She allowed herself to become mesmerized between

verses, and by example urged the crowd to do the same. For a good seven minutes

or so, everyone drank from the very well that gave birth to Tucker's entire

musical life.

Both the band and the audience reaped the rewards of this

refueling. Tucker returned to the kit rejuvenated, and Magnet ripped into the

best song from Don't Be A Penguin, the opening track "Julie." With

mallets in hand, the drummer raised her left arm as if it were part of a

mechanical press. Though she still gazed intently down at her kit, she now

projected an air of being transfixed by the instrument and all of which it was

capable. From that point on, the band played with more muscle, acing songs such

as "Summer & Winter" and the sea chantey "Down Down." On "Even If," Tucker

offered a delicious stalled accent (hitting the third and fourth beat rather

than the second and fourth), the type of subtle move that sometimes gets

overlooked by listeners honed in on her tom heavy sound. It was a quiet,

perfect moment.

To be sure, Magnet could use more of an edge in its sound

(perhaps with stronger vocals or more biting guitar) to maintain momentum

beyond the association with Tucker. For now, however, with Moe fresh behind the

kit and Goodman's melodies in abundant supply, the band is set to score.

Listeners are well advised to take in the show before Tucker puts her kit in

storage for another 25 years.